Shaping teaching of history in Scottish secondary schools

Submitting Institution

University of Glasgow

Unit of Assessment


Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Language, Communication and Culture: Literary Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

Professor Dauvit Broun has shaped the History curriculum for Scotland's schools through his advisory role in the development of the `Curriculum for Excellence', a new national framework that has reinvented Scottish education for ages 3-18. He has set the pace nationally for teacher-academic collaboration through his activities with the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE); Scottish History Society; Scottish Association of Teachers of History; the schools Inspectorate; and the History and Social Studies officers in Scotland's curricular and assessment bodies, the Scottish Qualifications Authority and Education Scotland. Through his leadership, a University of Glasgow (UoG) team has established large-scale, systematic knowledge transfer to secondary school teachers and learners across Scotland through tailored events and web resources. The Subject Specialist for History in HM Inspector of Education states: `Professor Broun has been at the forefront of academics extending the reach of universities into school education.'

Underpinning research

Broun is a world-leading expert in the history of medieval Scotland. He has been at Glasgow since 1990 and was appointed Professor of Scottish History in 2009. Broun is best known for his work on the development of Scottish identity. He has changed the face of medieval Scottish history with the People of Medieval Scotland, 1093-1314 database, a major research outcome of two AHRC-funded projects, the `Paradox of Medieval Scotland' (2007-10; £629k; Broun, PI) and the `Breaking of Britain: Cross-border Society and Scottish Independence' (2010-13; £841k; Broun, PI), through which he has contributed new perspectives on the Wars of Independence by highlighting the English dimension of those who championed Scottish sovereignty. This AHRC-funded work has yielded new evidence on the English origins of Scottish political ideas, William Wallace's role as a leader, and how the English government viewed his activities — specifically, how the guardianship of 1286-92 was inspired by the English baronial movement of 1258-65, how Wallace functioned as a junior partner to three other leaders in the revolt against English occupation, becoming Guardian only by default, and how government clerks in Westminster thought he acted as king. These insights help pupils understand the significance of the guardians, the nature of Wallace's leadership, and why the English pursued him so vigorously.

In addition to Broun, the research team consists of three other Glasgow historians:

- Simon Newman: a leading social historian of early America and the Atlantic world, Newman has developed a ground-breaking analysis of the Atlantic plantation slavery labour system, published as a monograph in 2013. Newman has been at Glasgow since 1997 and was appointed the Sir Denis Brogan Professor of American History in 2002. Newman's recent work has highlighted Scottish participation in plantation slavery, shedding light on the role played by Scots in the development of the British plantation economy, as labourers and planters, and as merchants, producers and workers back in Scotland.

- Karin Bowie: Bowie's doctoral work, published as a 2007 monograph and a series of articles, has transformed understanding of the making of the Anglo-Scottish Union of 1707 by revealing the significance of popular politics and public debate. Bowie has been a Lecturer at Glasgow since 2005. Her research on crowd protests, petitioning and pamphleteering activities shows that the union was not simply `bought and sold for English gold'.

- Steven Reid: Reid's prize-winning 2011 monograph has provided a new perspective on the Scottish Reformation and the famed Presbyterian reformer Andrew Melville by investigating Melville's role in the reformation of Scotland's universities. Reid's work argues against the view of Andrew Melville as a Presbyterian superman and indicates the need to place Melville's influence into local as well as national political contexts. Reid joined the university as a Lecturer in History in 2008.

Broun and the team convey key insights from their published research to teachers and learners through a variety of mediums.

References to the research

- Dauvit Broun, Scottish Independence and the Idea of Britain: From the Picts to Alexander III (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007) ISBN-13: 978-0748623600. (Available from HEI)


- Amanda Beam, John Bradley, Dauvit Broun, John Reuben Davies, Matthew Hammond, Michele Pasin, et al, The People of Medieval Scotland, 1093 - 1314 (Glasgow and London, 2012) - see

- Broun, et al, `Features of the Month', The Breaking of Britain website — see -- articles include Broun's `A recently discovered chronicle of the Wars of Independence', and `New information on the Guardians' appointment in 1286 and on Wallace's rising in 1297'.

- Simon Newman, A New World of Labor: The Development of Plantation Slavery in the British Atlantic (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013). ISBN 978-0-8122-4519-6 [REF2]


- Karin Bowie, Scottish Public Opinion and the Anglo-Scottish Union, 1699-1707 (Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer for the Royal Historical Society Studies in History, 2007. ISBN: 9781843836513). [Shortlisted for 2008 Hume Brown Senior prize.] (Available from HEI)


- Steven J Reid, Humanism and Calvinism: Andrew Melville and the Universities of Scotland, 1560-1625 (Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate for the St. Andrews Studies in Reformation History, 2011. ISBN: 978-1-4094-0005-9). [Winner, 2012 Hume Brown Senior prize.] [REF2]


Details of the impact

Dauvit Broun has taken a national lead in developing a flexible framework for teaching History in keeping with the principles of the Scottish government's `Curriculum for Excellence' and in supporting this through the provision of resources reflecting the most recent research.1 In 2008 Broun advised the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) on an overhaul of the Higher (S5) Scottish history papers and contributed to focus groups on `experiences and outcomes' in Social Studies led by Learning and Teaching Scotland (now Education Scotland). In 2008-10 Broun served as the academic representative for Scottish history on a Schools Directorate Working Group and in 2011 contributed to a History advisory group for the `Curriculum for Excellence'. The latter became a model for other subjects through its success in drawing on academic and other outside expertise. In 2012 Broun worked with the SQA History Development Officer on proposed mandatory content areas in the History curriculum.

Broun has advocated systematic knowledge transfer to schools. As Convenor of the Council of the Scottish History Society (SHS), Broun recruited academics to write briefings on curricular topics which were disseminated via the SHS website from 2010, including pieces by Broun, Bowie and Reid (see §5). In 2012 the SHS formed a collaborative Google group of teachers and academics. Broun presented at a RSE symposium on `The Teaching of History: a Model for Collaboration' (2/2/13). He also led a session at the 2012 Scottish Association of Teachers of History (SATH) conference on integrating academic research into teaching and arranged a 2013 follow-up session led by Bowie.

Broun's AHRC projects have created links with schools, pupils and policy-makers. The Breaking of Britain website includes a dedicated page for schools (, launched at the SATH conference on 20 May 2012. Michael Russell MSP (Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning) launched the `People of Medieval Scotland 1093-1314' database on 5 September 2012. This launch was attended by pupils from Bishopbriggs Academy and reported by the BBC, STV, Herald, Scotsman, and thirty local papers. Between 5 September 2012 and 18 November 2013 the Breaking of Britain site has had 9,198 visits (5,660 people) and the People of Medieval Scotland ( has seen 63,805 visits (41,372 people). Most recently, the Paradox of Medieval Scotland project website was launched on 8 September 2013 by Fiona Hyslop MSP and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning. Broun has presented his research to teachers through a `New approaches to studying Scotland' HM Inspectorate event (Dundee, Sept 2009), SATH conferences in 2012 and 2013, a 2012 CPD event organised by Education Scotland and a number of school visits. He is now using `Follow-On' AHRC funding with Education Scotland to inform the teaching of History at the early `Broad General Education' level. The project will create `learner journeys' using the POMS database.

In 2012-13 Broun and Bowie developed a series of interactive conferences and a dedicated website to provide a national platform for collaboration, in consultation with development officers from Education Scotland and the SQA.

- `Aiming High in Higher Scottish History' conferences were held at UoG. Historians, including Broun, Bowie and Reid, presented their research on Higher Scottish history topics. The events were promoted to teachers on GLOW, the Scottish schools' intranet, by Education Scotland. Widening access objectives were served by advertising the events through the UoG's `Top-Up' programme. Feedback in evaluation forms was overwhelmingly positive: 94% of teachers rated the December 2012 sessions as `excellent' and nearly all identified specific research insights that they intended to take back to the classroom. The SQA's Development Officer commented that `the passion and willingness to engage with teachers and learners which is so evident in the presentations has been truly inspiring and infectious'.

- The Glasgow researchers set up a History in Schools website to extend the reach of the conferences. The website introduces the work of Glasgow historians on curricular topics and disseminates lesson guides, research papers, videos and podcasts. The website was launched in December 2012 to positive acclaim: 100% of surveyed teachers indicated their intention to visit the site. TES Scotland featured the website in a print and online article (University of Glasgow project takes findings 'out of the ivory tower') and SATH invited Bowie to demonstrate the site at their 2013 conference. Twitter has been used to invite pupils to use the website resources for their Higher `extended essays'.

Further examples of the team's collaboration with teachers include the following (see §5):

- Newman has created a network of teachers called the Scotland and Slavery Group. In 2012 he collaborated with Katie Hunter of St. Thomas of Aquin's High School in Edinburgh to create lesson plans on transatlantic voyages. These have been posted on the History in Schools website along with videos of papers from a 2010 RSE-funded symposium organised by Newman. In 2012 he worked with another teacher, Nelson Mundell, to develop Atlantic Slave Trade active learning exemplars at the invitation of Education Scotland.

- Bowie presented her research at the 2007 SATH conference to c.150 teachers and contributed an article to the SATH 2011 yearbook, History Teaching Review.

- Reid has shared his research in a series of downloadable videos created by Education Scotland (with advice from Broun), available online since 2010.

The activity of the Glasgow researchers supports teachers in fulfilling a Curriculum for Excellence requirement that all secondary schools teach Scottish history for national assessments, reflecting the core `experience and outcome' demanded of Social Studies in Scotland, to `develop [...] understanding of the history, heritage and culture of Scotland'.2 UoG research and collaboration were essential to this process. The former Chair of the History Advisory Group believes that Broun `provided expert support to History teachers and SQA staff developing new courses' and that his work informed the creation of `high quality teaching and learning resources financed by Learning and Teaching Scotland, now provided online by Education Scotland.' The SQA confirms that the Glasgow research team `has made an outstanding contribution to the ongoing strength of History teaching and learning in Scottish schools'. UoG researchers are now developing new programmes and an interactive website that will extend these activities to more topics and younger pupils.

1 The Curriculum for Excellence represents a complete reform of Scottish pedagogy covering ages 3 to 18. It is oriented around `experiences' and `outcomes' and embraces `active learning'. It saw a phased rollout from 2009. (Scottish Government press release).

2 `Curriculum for Excellence: Social Studies Experiences and Outcomes' (2010)

Sources to corroborate the impact

Contribution to resources for and professional development of teachers

`Aiming High in Higher Scottish History: a Conference for Teachers and Learners' — see: `Cutting Edge Research Comes to Classroom' (Times Educational Supplement 30 November 2012)

- Testimonials (available from HEI) have been provided by:

  • HM Inspector of Education for History
  • Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning on launch of POMS website

Scottish Association Teachers of History

- (Bowie) `Popular Politics and the Making of the Union', History Teaching Review 25 (2011), pp. 15-24. [The yearbook is circulated to 190 departments of history in Scottish secondary schools, reaching 2-5 teachers in each department.] (Available from HEI)

- (Broun) `Wars of Independence', SATH Summer School (2012) programme

Online Resources

- History in Schools website, makes conference slides and other materials available to teachers

- (Broun) Breaking of Britain `Schools Zone' — (specific relevance to Higher History paper 2 option and equivalent National 5 option) and

- Education Scotland website:

- Scottish History Society website, Learning Resources section:

Policy and curriculum impact

- Broun's membership of the Curriculum for Excellence History advisory group: Scottish Government press release and Final Report.

- Broun, `Teaching of History: a Model for Collaboration', Royal Society of Edinburgh, 2 February 2013 - Summary report of presentation

- Testimonials (available from HEI) have been provided by:

  • former Chair of the Curriculum for Excellence History Advisory Group and Past President of SATH
  • Qualification Development Consultant, Scottish Qualifications Authority